The Black Rock City Bus Depot operates the shuttle bus to Gerlach and Empire. In 2004, the depot crew really found our stride. All of the improvements made during the first 4 years worked in harmony this year.
The Gerlach/Empire shuttle bus runs from Wednesday morning through Saturday afternoon during the event hourly from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 2-hour round trip gives an opportunity to shop at the Empire store for up to 20 minutes, or you can spend about 30 minutes in Gerlach and still catch the same bus back. If you miss your bus, you can get on the next one coming back, except the last one out, of course.
The Bus Depot is located just outside the Center Camp Circle. Again this year the Department of Public Works (DPW) was ahead of the game, setting up the ticket booth with a shade structure and another shade structure with benches across the street for the bus stop. Ticket booth staff members answer questions for passengers regarding services in town and sell tickets for $5 each.
For the second year, we set up the ticket booth and the bus stop across the street from each other. Signs make both quite visible to those who pass. After 5 years of operations, most people seem to know our service exists, and Playa Info does a great job of directing people who need us.
We have not seen substantially increased passenger numbers over the past 3 years. Again this year, buses were packed during mid-day hours on Thursday and Friday, but otherwise people spread out their trips during the day. The last two buses each day are usually fairly empty, so we don’t worry about stragglers getting on the last bus back from Gerlach. If we change anything next year, we may cut down on the number of bus runs.
More than half of the volunteers working the ticket booth were repeaters from previous years, and a few have contributed all five years. A simple change in the way ticket sales were tallied improved monitoring the capacity of each bus. Last year, we switched to wristbands as a bus ticket and in-out pass, and the change has worked out really well for everyone. The Gate staff has quickly collected passengers’ wristbands, and otherwise we needed help only from Community Services to refill our water cooler each day. Playa info referred one or two volunteers to us when we were short-handed. They have never taken more than 30 minutes to route a walk-up volunteer our way.
As our operation has become easier to manage on-site, we have dialed into the need of our community members who take the shuttle bus. If we make one improvement next year, it will be to encourage our volunteers to talk it up more with each person who wants to go into town. Many passengers know exactly what and where their needs will be met, but some still need to find out how to get what they want from us. Some even find out they don’t really need to ride our bus, because they can’t get what they want, or they can actually get what they want without leaving. What a town!